Ducks prepare for season with a quarterback competition
The quarterback competition at Oregon will sort itself out sooner rather than later.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich says he hopes to have a decision about 10 days before the team's season opener against UC Davis at Autzen Stadium on Sept. 3.
Although many have looked to graduate transfer Dakota Prukop to lead the way, Helfrich said the job is far from sewn up. Redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen and freshman Terry Wilson are also in the mix.
''You want it to be obvious and glaring and everybody kind of looks at each other and goes, `Yeah.' Like last year was a unanimous vote,'' Helfrich said. ''No question about that.''
Prukop came to the Ducks from Montana State, where he passed for 3,025 yards and 28 touchdowns with 10 interceptions last year. He also rushed for 774 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Big Sky's Bobcats, who finished 5-6.
He looks to follow Vernon Adams, another graduate transfer who started for the Ducks last season but was hampered by injuries.
Jonsen is a dual-threat quarterback from Anaheim, California, who injured his toe last fall and required surgery. Wilson enrolled early last spring at Oregon to get a head start.
Taylor Alie and Jeff Lockie, who both saw playing time at quarterback last season when Adams was hurt, were moved to receiver in the spring game.
Oregon went 9-4 last season, the first time the Ducks finished with fewer than 10 wins since 2007. The season was capped by a triple-overtime loss to TCU in the Alamo Bowl.
Things to watch as the Ducks prepare for the season:
GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Royce Freeman is understandably getting some preseason Heisman buzz. As a sophomore last season he broke LaMichael James' single-season rushing record with 1,836 yards. He's currently 1,881 yards away from James' career record (5,082) at Oregon.
''I want to make bigger plays and go for longer rushes,'' he said at the Ducks' annual media day to open fall camp. ''I want to be out there every down if I can.''
BEST EXCUSE EVER: Wide receiver Devon Allen will miss fall camp. But he's got a good excuse: He's at the Rio Olympics where he's competing in the 110-meter hurdles. Allen won a spot on the team in Brazil by winning the event at the U.S. track trials in Eugene.
Helfrich said football is the furthest thing from his mind when it comes to the speedy junior. ''His focus and our focus is him winning the gold medal, and we'll figure it out from there,'' the coach said.
Helfrich planned a team meeting – aka a watch party – when Allen runs in Rio.
NEW COACHES: Oregon has several new coaches making their Duck debut this fall, including new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke, who was head coach at Michigan from 2011-14, and new offensive coordinator Matt Lubick, who was promoted from wide receivers coach after Scott Frost took the head coaching job at Central Florida.
Also among the newcomers is quarterbacks coach David Yost, who coached receivers at Washington State under Mike Leach for the past three seasons.
ADDRESSING THE D: Hoke is installing a new 4-3 scheme, hoping to improve a unit that gave up an average of 37.5 points, a school record, and 485.3 yards per game.
''Obviously, from a defensive standpoint – just too many points, too many yards, too many explosive plays,'' Helfrich said. ''Our two big keys are explosive plays and taking care of the football on offense, and explosive plays and taking the football away on defense.''
SEASON OPENER: Hosting UC Davis on Sept. 3.
PREDICTION: Oregon has too many question marks – the competition at quarterback and the adjustment to a new defensive scheme – to suggest that they might overcome Stanford in the Pac-12 North. But the very fact that the Ducks get both the Cardinal and Washington at Autzen Stadium goes in their favor, at least in terms of conference play. Oregon again plays a challenging non-conference schedule, including a visit to Nebraska. Look for the Ducks to finish 9-4 again.